As an interventional pulmonologist focused on thoracic oncology, Haas treats various lung and pleural diseases.
He performs diagnostic procedures on patients with suspected malignancies, a subspecialty of pulmonary critical care medicine.
Haas also has become a leader in the early development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, which involves a laboratory reprograming of a patient’s own white blood cells to help stop cancers such as mesothelioma.
CAR T-cell therapy already has shown considerable promise with certain blood cancers like leukemia, a big step toward a potential new approach to treatment of other malignancies.
Its effectiveness with solid tumors such as mesothelioma has been limited, but early research has been promising.
Studying Gene Therapy and Immunotherapy
Haas is the principal investigator of a clinical trial at Penn Medicine trying to determine the best way to utilize CAR T-cell therapy in the fight against pleural mesothelioma.
“We do not anticipate CAR T-cells to work as well in mesothelioma due to the complex tumor environment in solid tumors,” Haas said. “But we will move to combination therapy with other immune or tumor microenvironment modifying drugs to improve efficacy.”
He is overseeing another clinical trial exploring the safety of combining this customized gene therapy with chemotherapy in patients with pleural mesothelioma.
He believes immunotherapy is changing the way most cancers are treated, often using it in combination with other modalities.
“We need a more multi-modality approach to treatment. Immunotherapy is further along than it was a few years ago,” he said. “Each immune system is unique. This concept of precision medicine will be part of immunotherapy and how we understand which therapies are best for the individual patient.”
Serves Several Programs at UPenn
Haas serves as the bronchoscopy director at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at UPenn.
His specialties include all asbestos-related lung diseases, airway stenting, lung volume reduction surgery, therapeutic endoscopy, tracheal stenosis and laser bronchoscopy.
He is part of the Lung Nodule Program, the Lung Cancer Program, the Interventional Pulmonology Program and the much-heralded Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program, which can offer every treatment option available worldwide — and a few available only there.
A key aspect of the Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Program is the weekly meeting of experts from different specialties to help personalize therapy for each patient.